“When are we going to start paying attention?” Rose starts rhetorically, “that we are destroying the land that feeds us and gives us life.” Sadly, I think to myself, not soon enough. She continues, that even after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, even this accident was not large enough, to wake people up to the dangers of offshore oil exploration and drilling. It was too far away, for most Canadians to make the connection between excessive oil use and environmental degradation. Rose Henry believes, that after we have had our own comparable oil spill, will Canadians and British Columbian’s wake up and smell the coffee: “It’s like driving drunk [she states, in reference to allowing oil tanker container traffic, to continue off of our coastline] we are not paying attention to the change that we are driving.” She knows that it is wrong, to ask for a natural oil spill on the BC Coast, but she fears this will be the only thing, that will prove to us the error of our ways and shake Canadians out of our complacency.
Her recent, and potentially biggest challenge as an environmental justice advocate, has been spreading awareness about the potential damage that could result from the construction of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. This interprovincial development project, according to an Enbridge corporate brochure will: “involve a twin pipeline system running from near Edmonton, Alberta to a new marine terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia to export petroleum and import condensate.” Sounds like a bad idea, well our government doesn’t think so. When finished, the 1,172 kilometre pipeline, will link the oil sands in Northern Alberta to the Northern British Columbia coastline. FYI, condensate is a chemical that is used to help liquify and breakdown, heavy oil sludge so that it can move faster along the pipeline network; from the point of extraction to the point of intercontinental shipping at the new Kitimat Port. So how big is the scope of this project? Well, huge would be an understatement. Again, according to Enbridge Corporation’s glossy promotional material: “[the pipeline] will export approximately 525,000 barrels of oil per day to the new marine terminal in Kitimat.”
Rose’s awareness building activities, include the promotion of her friends’: Richard Boise, Ingmar Lee and Norm’s [who is the paddler in the youtube clip] new documentary Stand Up 4 Great Bear and corresponding website mountainsurfadventures.blogspot.com . In the youtube video, you can see Norm talk about his goal to raise awareness, about the dangers of the pending oil pipeline development, by paddling 325 kilometres from Kitimat to Haida Gwaii. Just last week, he completed the trip, which he started on May 6th. His route, is the same one, that oil tankers leaving Kitimat will have to take, in order to make it into the open ocean. This route is located in a very treacherous fjord called Hecate Strait. Potentially, according to Norm: ” [it is] one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world.”
I’m not old enough to remember the damage caused by the Exxon Valdez crisis. But even now, 21 years after that initial spill; the flora and fauna within Prince William Sound still haven’t completely rebounded. Even a little bit of leaked oil, can adversely impact sea life. When the BC Ferries vessel, the Queen of the North sank along Inside Passage in 2006 [the route connecting Port Hardy and Prince Rupert] the amount of diesel oil that leaked out of the vessel’s hull, was enough to destroy indigenous oyster harvesting beds within the region. Now, can you imagine the loss of aquatic habitat, caused by the sinking of an oil tanker in Hecate Strait?
Not to be an alarmist, but I would expect that the Fraser River salmon run, would likely be closed indefinitely. This would, then be followed shortly, by the corresponding disappearance of our local killer whale pods. This may sound ridiculous, but is it? Nothing in the environment is kept separated, everything is interconnected under system’s theory. Also keep in mind, that tar balls have now washed ashore as far south as Texas because of the Deepwater Horizon explosion near the Mississippi River Delta on April 2oth. Listening, to some scientists following the greatest environmental catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina, it is likely that every region of the world will eventually be impacted by the spill, most noticeably through the food system. Don’t count on having shrimp, available year round anymore.
But nothing in environmental politics is black and white, the project is subject to a joint review panel process under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that will determine, if built will the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project: “cause significant adverse affects on the environment?” Enbridge certainly doesn’t think so, I can tell this by the slew of full-page advertisements taken out in the front section of the Globe and Mail, immediately following the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. According to John Carruthers, President of Enbridge Corporation, he is keenly aware of the environmental concerns surrounding the development, but he is confident that the benefits out weigh the drawbacks of the project. In terms of benefits, Carruthers is referring to the 1,150 long term jobs that will be created across that country, if the project passes the Environmental Impact Assessment review process. Especially, for the people in the industrial towns in Northern British Columbia and Alberta, such as Kitimat and Fort McMurray, the allure of job creation may be just enough to turn the other cheek, when it comes to considering the negative environmental impacts that can come from the project.
At present, the project timeline has slated public and government consultation to continue until 2o12, with construction to begin in 2013. You can and should contribute your thoughts, written comments on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, no later than noon Mountain Daylight Time on Wednesday September 8th 2010. Please visit, http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/index.html or feel free to submit your thoughts via snail mail at:
Joint Review Panel – Enbridge Northern Gateway Project
444 Seventh Ave. S.W. 2nd Floor Mailroom
TOLL FREE: 1-877-288-8803
Make no reservations about it, the buck ultimately stops with the Prime Minister. Stephan Harper, being the control freak that he is, has the final call so give him a call at: 1-613-992-4211 or send him an e-mail: Harper.S@parl.gc.ca or alternatively you can send him a hand written letter, postage paid to the following address:
Right Hon. Stephan Harper
House of Commons
Lastly, I can’t help but consider one of Rose’s parting comments during our interview on Friday afternoon, was the renaming of the Georgia Strait to the Salish Sea an act of tokenism? Was this, just an attempt on the part of our government’s [provincial and federal], to soften the blow before they start building the pipeline? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.